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New Lease Signed for Dunn Tire Park

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – It's a "done deal" for Dunn Tire Park. A ceremonial signing was held outside the ballpark Wednesday that shifts the financial burden away from the cash-strapped city.

A five-year lease agreement was signed between the county, city and the Buffalo Bisons baseball team. The city still owns the Washington Street stadium, but now the county will provide $5 million for capital improvements. The Bisons take over day-to-day maintenance and operations.

It's expected to save the city about a million dollars a year through 2008. County Legislature chairman Al DeBenedetti says there is now "shared responsibility."

"I'm extremely pleased that the Bisons have stepped up and down the right thing in this agreement," DeBenedetti said. "On behalf of myself and members of the county, we are very proud to take part in this agreement."

Mayor Masiello says it's in the best interest of taxpayers. He noted that about 80 percent of people who attend the ballpark live in the suburbs, making it a regional asset.

"A lot of people say the city is giving away an asset," Masiello said. "We're not giving away an asset, we are sharing an asset with the county, with the Rich family and the people of Buffalo and Western New York, because it rightfully belongs in this particular situation."

The city was unable to provide capital improvement dollars under the old lease. Bisons owner and president, Bob Rich, calls the new public-private partnership "symbolic."

"It's not just good for the fans and citizens of the region," Rich said. "I look on this as a very upbeat message that we in Western New York are sending out that we are very serious about our future."

Stadium improvements will include upgrades to lighting, new seating areas and a state-of-the-art sound system.

Leaders say the deal will ensure future success of the ballpark and attract more events, such as concerts.